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The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund: What You Need to Know

Firefighters Helping 9/11 Victims

Life in the United States changed forever on the morning of September 11, 2001. Those who remember the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon recall the particularly helpless feeling that came hand in hand with seeing how easily the fabric of life as we know it could be altered by senseless, terrorist violence.

As a country, we bonded in the days following the attacks; people from all walks of life stepped away from the daily grind of their personal and professional responsibilities to volunteer, helping wherever needed and however possible. Amid the wreckage and despair was heroism of the purest form; sacrificial, unthinking, born not of the desire for glory or recognition but simply to do the right thing when help was desperately needed.

No one embodies this spirit of heroism more than the police officer, firefighters, construction workers, bus operators, electrical workers and other first responders who poured into lower Manhattan, charging through the swirling, apocalyptic clouds of dust and rubble while thinking only of doing their jobs: saving lives and helping re-build.

Almost 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including hundreds of first responders that gave their lives later attempting to fight against the chaos and suffering at Ground Zero.

As time has gone on, many First Responders, Con Ed and Verizon workers, Volunteers and Residents of Lower Manhattan continue to physically suffer for their exposure to the toxic environment in Lower Manhattan after 9/11. The dust present at Ground Zero, containing pulverized building materials, asbestos, microscopic glass shards, heavy metals, and a broad range of other deadly ingredients, has led to over 4,000 people being diagnosed with cancer, and more than 30 thousand with at least one 9/11-related illness or injury.

Asthma, lung disease, COPD, nasal cavity injuries, and over fifty types of cancer, including Prostate Cancer, Blood Cancers and Skin Cancers, have been proven by scientific studies to be caused by exposure to the toxic environment in Lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks.

Who Is Covered by the Zadroga Act?

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was passed by Congress in 2010, and then re-authorized by Congress in 2015, to provide financial compensation and medical treatment to anyone who was present in Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11 and has been diagnosed with any covered condition.

If you were present in Lower Manhattan between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002 in any capacity (First Responder, Construction Worker, Electrical Worker, Transit Worker, Volunteer, Resident, etc.), and have been diagnosed with any form of Cancer or any of the covered non-cancerous injuries, you may be eligible for compensation.

As any 9/11 injury lawyer will tell you, there are deadlines to register for financial compensation which, if missed, eliminate your opportunity to file a claim to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Even though President Obama signed the Re-Authorized Zadroga Bill, which extended the Victim Compensation Fund to 2020 and extended the World Trade Center Health Program to 2090, registration deadlines still apply.

What Conditions Are Covered by the Zadroga Act?

Since First Responders have been diagnosed with a wide variety of ailments, illnesses, and injuries following their work at Ground Zero, there are many conditions covered by the two entities established by the Zadroga Act (the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program). Some of these include:

    • Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
    • Interstitial Lung Disease
    • Asthma
    • Chronic Respiratory Disorder
    • Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    • Chronic laryngitis, nasopharyngitis, and rhinosinusitis
    • Many others

As the long-term impacts of the carcinogenic environment suffered by first responders have become clear, numerous forms of cancer have been scientifically linked to 9/11 and, as such, are eligible for awards from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Cancers were not originally included as part of the Zadroga Act’s covered conditions, but certain types were added as eligible injuries via a new rule which took effect on October 12, 2012. If you have questions pertaining to an illness, condition, or cancer which you think may be related to work on or following 9/11, it’s crucial that you speak with a qualified VCF lawyer sooner rather than later in order to receive your due compensation.

How Is Victim Compensation Calculated?

Congress has appropriated more than $7 billion to the Victim Compensation Fund in order to provide financial support to first responders and others harmed by their participation in rescue attempts following the 9/11 attacks. The amount awarded per individual varies greatly and is roughly calculable based on three components: economic loss, non-economic loss, and collateral offsets.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with a covered condition related to 9/11 exposure is eligible for a Non-Economic Loss award. Non-Economic Loss awards compensate claimants for the pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of society and companionship, caused by the covered condition.

Additionally, if someone is disabled due to their covered condition, there may also be an award for Economic Loss. Economic loss is exactly what it sounds like: loss of earnings or other benefits of employment, including pension plans, 401k plans, and more, due to the covered condition.

Collateral source payments are monies or benefits already paid out to individuals in relation to the 9/11 attacks and the following debris removal. The most common collateral sources are payments from Social Security Disability, Workers’ Compensation, Life Insurance, and settlement payments from any September 11th related lawsuits.

Award amounts for first responders are determined by adding economic loss with non-economic loss, then subtracting collateral source payments. It sounds simple, but there are many factors in play which can greatly impact the total amount of an individual’s award; it’s important to consult with a qualified Zadroga VCF attorney who can help make sure your claim is as accurate and as all-encompassing as possible in order to receive the compensation you justly deserve.

Do I Need a Zadroga Act Lawyer?

First responders, firefighters, police, EMTs, construction workers, iron workers, electrical workers, plumbers, doctors, National Guardsmen, volunteers, and residents who were present in Lower Manhattan and exposed to the toxic dust and fumes from Ground Zero, stand to gain compensation and support via the Victim Compensation Fund.

However, as with most government support programs, the process of application and claim filing can be convoluted and frustrating; even if you’re entitled to support from the Victim Compensation Fund, it behooves you to work with a knowledgeable VCF Zadroga attorney to guarantee a smooth legal process and maximum compensation.

The team of skilled attorneys at the The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. currently represents hundreds of responders, volunteers, office workers, and residents of Lower Manhattan who have been diagnosed with 9/11-related maladies and injuries. Our expert legal professionals can help you move your Victim Compensation Fund claim through the nuanced claim processing system as quickly as possible and will work tirelessly to help you receive the highest possible award amount.

Trying times make heroes out of ordinary men and women. We believe that the first responders and workers who unknowingly sacrificed their long-term health and well-being for the benefit of others are heroes of the highest order and deserve to be cared for as such. If this describes you, contact us at (212) 970-6500 to speak with a skilled, experienced Zadroga Act lawyer about your claim today.